Reliable Robotics Makes Aviation History with First Flights of Autonomous Passenger Airplanes Over Populated RegionsRead Now
Reliable Robotics, a leader in bringing autonomous capability to airplanes, today announced that they have achieved historic firsts for global commercial aviation by completing successful test flights of remote-piloted passenger airplanes in United States airspace. In the first flight, the pilot pressed a button on a remote user interface and the unmanned four passenger Cessna 172 Skyhawk (C172) automatically taxied, took off, and landed. Most recently, the company demonstrated fully automated remote landing of an even larger aircraft, the Cessna 208 Caravan (C208), capable of carrying 14 passengers.
“Automated aircraft are going to fundamentally shift the entire airline business, and Reliable Robotics is well positioned to be a key player in this new market. The progress their team has demonstrated in a short amount of time is very impressive,” said David Neeleman, Founder of five commercial airlines including JetBlue Airways.
Reliable Robotics seamlessly integrated its autonomous platform onto the 2,550 pound C172. They began the C172 program in January 2018 and completed fully automated gate-to-gate operation before the end of that year. Extensive system safety analysis and testing was conducted prior to the unmanned test flight in September 2019. This marked the first time a privately funded company operated a passenger airplane of this type with no pilot on board over a populated region, and was an important step in certifying the autonomous platform for repeated, safe civil use on certified aircraft.
“We spent the first portion of our flight test program focused on the C172. We thoroughly tested every aspect of our system in simulation and conducted rigorous safety checks before operating the aircraft without a pilot on board and are now proud to share what we’ve been working on,” said Robert Rose, Co-founder and CEO of Reliable Robotics. “By bringing advanced automation to aviation, we will deliver higher safety, reliability and convenience for cargo operators and eventually for passengers.”
The company designed and built a proprietary autonomous platform that can be applied to any fixed-wing aircraft. The platform includes avionics, software, mechanisms, a communications system, remote control interfaces, along with a backup system that has the capability to take over if needed. Following the C172 program, it was adapted for use on the larger C208. Reliable Robotics is now working with the FAA on incrementally bringing this technology to market, having already demonstrated automated landing on the C208 last month.
“Reliable Robotics has assembled a proven team with deep experience across aviation, aerospace, self driving cars, medical devices and robotics. I’m excited to see them achieve milestones methodically while prioritizing safety, and navigating a complex regulatory environment,” said Eclipse Ventures Partner Greg Reichow, formerly VP of Manufacturing at Tesla, Inc.
Reliable Robotics was founded in 2017 by engineers who believe aircraft should fly themselves. The leadership team includes Co-founder and CEO Robert Rose who led flight software at SpaceX and the Autopilot program at Tesla, launching the Falcon 9 rocket, Dragon spacecraft and the first consumer automobile with fully unassisted self-driving capability. Co-founder and VP of Engineering Juerg Frefel led the team developing the compute platform for the Falcon 9 rocket and the Dragon spacecraft. Other senior members of the team have played key roles in the development of the Boeing 787, Airbus A380 and other major commercial aircraft and avionics systems.
The company has raised $33.5 million in two rounds of funding led by Lightspeed Ventures and Eclipse Ventures respectively; Pathbreaker Ventures, and Teamworthy Ventures also participated. The funding is being used to build components of the remote hardware and software needed to retrofit aircraft and to continue hiring top aerospace and engineering talent.
Lee Budde’s business plan, back in 1998, started out with building enhanced Supercub fuselages, including a wider version. That led to the development of Airframes Inc., a company that has been very successful. Not one to rest on well-earned laurels, however, Lee knew that a lot of the aircraft in Alaska suffer abuse due to off airport landings and deferred maintenance resulting from parts unavailability or unreasonable pricing. Requests from commercial aircraft operators inspired Lee to develop various STCs and PMAs for items like brake discs, door hinges, bolts for nosewheel struts, or banged up baffles.
So it was that he launched his second successful business in 2008: Airforms, Inc. As he addressed some of the Alaskan pilots’ needs, he began getting requests for parts (even prototype parts)… from all over the world. Today, Airforms holds nearly a thousand PMAs. They have more awaiting FAA approval.
One of the most successful issues Lee addressed was engine baffle kits. Baffles wear out, get bent or fall apart. Starting with the Supercub, Lee found that he could duplicate the original baffles and sell them for a lot less than OEM prices. He now holds PMAs for replacement baffle kits for 60 different models of Cessna, Piper, Beechcraft, Mooney, and Grumman. He has hundreds of different baffle assemblies in inventory, ready to ship.
With all the aging certified aircraft, Lee has shipped over 5,000 baffle kits during the time that he’s been in the business.
Airforms will be introducing several new baffle kits later this year.
They are also a leading supplier for STCs and replacement parts for the Cessna Caravan and CASA series aircraft.
For more information on baffle kits and other parts, visit Airform.biz
The restorers of a North American XP-82 Twin Mustang, one of the most unusual fighter/escort aircraft ever deployed by the U.S. military, are aiming to make EAA AirVenture 2018 its first public appearance to celebrate completion of an arduous ten-year restoration project.
The 66th annual Experimental Aircraft Association fly-in convention will be held in July at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The event is the world’s largest annual gathering of vintage warbird aircraft, with more than 300 participating each year among the 10,000 airplanes that arrive in the region for the event.
The ten-year restoration project in Douglas, Georgia, began after aircraft restorer Tom Reilly discovered the complete airframe on a farm in Ohio. Reilly then scoured the earth seeking engines, propellers and a multitude of other XP-82 parts to continue the restoration.
“The interest and enthusiasm for this restoration has been wonderful and gratifying,” said Reilly, who has chronicled the restoration process online. “There is no better place than Oshkosh to make the first public flights of this aircraft, which is why it is our intent to complete the restoration and testing so we can be a part of AirVenture 2018.”
The XP-82 restoration brings back a unique flying example of an aircraft designed late in World War II as a long-range fighter escort to accompany B-29 bombers for thousands of miles on missions over the Pacific Ocean. Based on the highly successful P-51 Mustang design, the XP-82 used twin fuselages and two specially designed Rolls-Royce Packard-built Merlin engines to supply the speed, range and armament needed for the task. Fewer than 300 of the airplanes were produced as the P-82, with all but five scrapped in the years after the Korean War as the military moved to jet aircraft.
“It has been decades since people have seen this aircraft type fly anywhere,” said Rick Larsen, EAA’s vice president of communities and member programs, who coordinates AirVenture features and attractions. “The return of this historic aircraft to the sky is a tribute to the vision and perseverance of the restoration team, and it’s fitting that the group has AirVenture as a goal to fly this beauty before a huge, appreciative audience.”
EAA AirVenture is known as the “World’s Greatest Aviation Celebration” and is EAA’s yearly membership convention. For further information, please visit www.eaa.org/airventure.
Bye Aerospace has announced that its prototype Sun Flyer 2 completed its first flight on April 10. The prototype aircraft flight test programme, which began in late March, is being conducted at Centennial Airport (KAPA), south of Denver, Colorado.
According to George Bye, Founder and CEO of Bye Aerospace, “We are excited about the future and the potential the Sun Flyer family of aircraft has to revolutionize general aviation, providing improved affordability and accessibility. Lower operating costs are key to solving the student pilot drop-out rate, which is curtailing the successful attainment of badly needed airline pilots. The Sun Flyer 2’s $3 hourly operating costs are ten times lower than traditional piston-engine flight trainers, with no carbon emissions and significantly reduced noise.”
EP Systems provided the energy storage system for the Sun Flyer 2 prototype being flight tested, including battery modules (packs), battery management unit and power distribution unit. The battery cells are LG Chem 'MJ1' lithium-ion battery cells with a 260 Wh/kg energy density. Bye Aerospace will soon announce who its electric motor partner will be for the family of FAA-certified Sun Flyer aircraft.
The Sun Flyer family of aircraft, including the Sun Flyer 2 and the 4-seat “Sun Flyer 4,” will be the first FAA-certified, U.S.-sponsored, practical, all-electric airplanes to serve the flight training and general aviation markets.
For more information, visit www.ByeAerospace.com or www.GeorgeBye.com
Since last fall, EPS Diesel has made significant progress in certifying their 'clean sheet' Graflight Flat 8 engine. The company expects to complete the process later this year. Certification activity has kept the company busy in the past year, as it continues to expand its staff and facilities.
Last fall, EPS Diesel subjected its engine to more than 70 hours of climb, cruise and restart scenarios in a revived air force chamber, which simulated altitudes up to 30,000 feet. The tests were conducted to affirm the mechanical design configuration of the Graflight Flat 8 engine, along with the advanced capabilities through the use of EPS’ proprietary Electronic Engine Control Unit (EECU) and its state of the art fuel system. “The engine responded in normal parameters at all altitudes up to 30,000 feet,” said EPS CEO Michael Fuchs.
Last summer, EPS began working on a new facility intended for engine testing, inspection, assembly and STC work. The inside space of the building is for EPS’ quality management team and for installing dyno technology, welding, fabrication space, and an engine tear down and inspection room. Once the new dyno testing facility is completed in April 2018, EPS will have the capacity to work on three engines at a time. Outside the building is an area being developed to accommodate specialized test stands that will allow for propeller tests, engine durability tests and any other climate/environmental testing as a part of certification and manufacturing.
“There are a considerable number of innovations in the Graflight Flat 8 engine,” said Fuchs, “and some of the new installations have stretched the known rules and methods for certification, especially in software, but progress has been steady and we are satisfied with our current timeline. We should be able to ship certified engines by the end of the year.”
For further information, please visit EPS.aero